War Of The Worlds

A friend and I saw Stephen Spielberg’s movie this afternoon. Please think twice before you take any children to this movie. While I enjoyed it immensely, one reviewer was right when he said this movie would be for some people a nightmare factory. Many, many people die in this movie, and some people get pretty darn ugly as the social contract ceases to exist in the light of absolute defeat and the ensuing sense of hopelessness. In many ways, this is a very dark movie.

The movie begins and ends with Morgan Freeman narrating the opening and closing lines of H. G. Wells’ book [Update: While Freeman reads almost virbatim from the beginning of the book, the ending is a composite, not a direct quote]. In between, it is a roller coaster ride of unremitting destruction as the aliens proceed to annihilate us from the face of our earth so they can make it theirs. Along the way there are a number of non sequiturs and plot holes, but they are not important. For a movie that has several very powerful set pieces and unbelievable (actually very believable) special effects that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you can now make anything you want, it is essentially a character-driven story.

The movie follows one man, Ray Ferrier, through several days of unbelievable destruction and madness. What he sees and experiences, you see and experience and what he doesn’t see or know neither do you. I commented to my friend that this technique made the movie feel claustrophobic, even when they were out in the open. It definitely added to the power of the film.

Tom Cruise is superb, playing a failed, divorced dockworker that has his son and daughter for the one weekend when all hell breaks loose. Slowly, over the course of the film, he becomes a real father and in one scene where he must choose between his son and his daughter it is so real you might want to scream. The words spoken to him are poignant. “You have to let me go dad; you have to let me go.”

I won’t comment on the images in the film that conjure up other movies as well as aspects of 9-11. You will, I think like me, love the minor success the humans have near the end of the film while trapped in the “fertilizer bin”. You will understand. That was a great moment for me, primarily because Ray makes a sacrificial choice that belies his previous image of an uncaring bore who is a father in name only.

I will probably go and see the movie again later in the month.